Pygmies Surge to Flagstaff Rugby Fourpeat

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. October 12, 2010 – The New Mexico Tech men’s rugby club won all three of their matches to repeat as champions of the Northern Arizona Tens Tournament for the fourth consecutive year.

The Pygmies defeated pool competitors from host Northern Arizona University and Prescott, Ariz., before beating parallel pool leaders Thunderbird (Phoenix) for the trophy. The Landshark Rugby Football Club of Flagstaff were staging their annual 10-man classic for the 30th consecutive year.

Tech Rugby players (from left) Joaquin Roibal, Enrique Koerdell, and James Chavez defend a rucked ball won by Northern Arizona University Landsharks at the 30th Annual Northern Arizona Tens Tournament.  Photo by Dave Wheelock/New Mexico Tech

The ball-winning unit of five forward players, led by Socorro native James Chavez, was not as dominant as in previous years but supplied enough possession to occasionally set loose a potent backline featuring veteran players Dustin Webb, Royce Beaudry, Isaiah Sanchez and James Fallt. The Pygmies scrambled successfully to turn away several scoring threats to preserve victory in their second and third matches.

Tech’s first Saturday match against NAU proved to be their easiest. Powerful prop Chavez barged over the line for a short range try in the first minute and second-year center Marshal Spradley touched down a brace of five-pointers for a 21-0 halftime lead. But penalties, which would plague Techs’ efforts throughout the tournament, crept into Tech’s game in the second half and NAU was able to capitalize for an unconverted try. Sanchez’s late intercept try closed scoring at 28-5 as Dustin Webb successfully drop-kicked all four try conversions for Tech.

An hour and a half later Tech tangled with a tough Prescott team that managed to score three tries against Tech’s four. Again, the Pygmies scored in the first minute through the talented running of flyhalf Royce Beaudry, but Prescott answered with a five-pointer on the next play. Enrique Koerdell and Webb finished good teamwork with two more first half tries for Tech, but the inability to make any conversion kicks coupled with a converted score by Prescott produced a slim 15-12 Pygmy halftime lead. Each team scored a try in a tension-filled second half, but Webb was able to connect with his kick after a try by Sanchez while Prescott’s kicker missed his attempt, and the Pygmies advanced with a 22-17 victory.

New Mexico Tech was challenged in the afternoon final by Thunderbird Rugby Club, who had dispatched Arizona State University and Tuba City. Thunderbird's tight defense limited Tech's scoring opportunities and showed the ability to move the ball effectively. Tech held a 5-0 halftime lead on a try by Sanchez but after a spirited goal line stand by the New Mexicans, Thunderbird sneaked in a try. The conversion was good and Tech trailed for the first time in three matches, 7-5.

With three minutes to play, Beaudry chipped a cross-field punt and Sanchez executed a spectacular tackle on the opposing wing, stripping the ball away and sprinting some 50 meters to score. Webb's conversion was good and Tech led 12-7. Beaudry added a try in the last minute after some deft passing by his teammates to secure Tech's repeat championship by a 19-7 score.

The high-flying Pygmies suffered a letdown of sorts in a Sunday "friendly" against host club Flagstaff's senior men's side. Tech looked lethargic in a 31-7 loss that demonstrated the ever-present danger of overconfidence.

Tech will attempt to stretch their 10-man expertise to the traditional 15-member code this weekend in at the High Desert Classic tournament, hosted by the Albuquerque Aardvarks Rugby Club. In 2009 the Pygmies finished runners-up in the collegiate division.

-- NMT --

By Dave Wheelock/Tech Rugby Director